MOVIES: Tebow sports film not 'predictable & clichéd'

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) -- Tim Tebow, a devout Christian who also happens to be an NFL veteran, Heisman Trophy winner and professional baseball player, now takes on a new challenge: the world of cinema.

Along with brother Robby, Tebow has produced "Run the Race," a dramatic film aimed at both secular and Christian audiences.

Zach, the film's central character, is a high school student bitter over his alcoholic father's abandonment and still reeling from his mother's death. He's an all-state athlete, striving for a college scholarship and a way out of a small town that offers little hope of a future. But when a devastating injury detours Zach's dreams, his brother David attempts to earn a track team scholarship in order to help them both.

David, raised in church, has embraced a relationship with Christ, while a resentful Zack battles with the spiritual side of his nature. Fortunately for Zack, Christians keep showing up in his life, lighting candles of spiritual truth that eventually guide him to faith and forgiveness.

"Run the Race is about so much more than football. This is a story about overcoming the hard issues of life, about the power of sacrifice, the power of family and the power of forgiveness," Tim Tebow said in press materials in advance of the film's Feb. 22 release.

Tebow said he decided to produce "a project like this because it will impact lives, inspire hope, and even prompt action. When I read the script, I knew this was an important project to get behind."

"The script pulled me in right away, and I wanted to bring it to life cinematically," Robby Tebow added. "As somebody with brothers in a big, super-close family that has gone through a lot together, it resonated with me on a deep level."

Screenwriter Jake McEntire's prediction that "audiences will resonate with this uplifting story of faith, sacrifice and hope" has merit.

He and co-writers Jason Baumgardner and Chris Dowling understand that lessons are absorbed more quickly and last longer when the audience is immersed in a satisfying parable. They give us an engaging tale, but also a look into the depth of mankind's nature. They understand story structure, how to gently incorporate a metaphor, and the need for three-dimensional characters. Their writing style exhibits perceptive wit and sensitivity, while their central figures are not stereotypes, but genuine people.

Rated PG (for thematic content and some teen partying), the sports-themed drama stars Tanner Stine ("NCIS," HBO's "Here & Now") and Evan Hofer ("Kickin' It") as the two brothers, with veterans Mykelti Williamson ("Fences," "Forrest Gump") as their coach, Frances Fisher ("Titanic," "Unforgiven") as their surrogate mother, and Mario Van Peebles ("Ali," "Red Sky") as their pastor.

Run the Race, from Reserve Entertainment and distributed by Roadside Attractions, is primarily aimed at teens and young adults, but adult audiences also may find it uplifting and involving.

The sports film genre is generally used as a metaphor for life. Each entry teaches, edifies and resolves. But let's face it, they're usually predictable and clichéd. Run the Race successfully escapes the pitfalls of most entries in this genre.

Two other movies quickly come to mind that also avoid being trite and overly conventional. Like Run the Race, "The Climb" and "When the Game Stands Tall" remind us of the bonds of brotherhood and the inescapable need for spiritual fulfillment. Along with the theatrical release of Run the Race, I highly recommend these two dynamic sports dramas, both on DVD.

The Climb (2002)

In this cliff-hanging adventure, two mountaineers (played by Jason George and Ned Vaughn) are forced to team up as they ascend Mt. Chicanagua, a dangerous Chilean alp that tempts the most astute of climbers. With different backgrounds and views on life, their struggle with each other becomes as daunting as the mountain itself. Soon this outdoor adventure reveals an innate need for working together and for Christ's salvation.

Amid its thematic values, director of photography Roger Boller deserves special note. With a budget that would be considered paltry compared to Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger actioners, Mr. Boller works cinematic magic with his moveable camera. It's not just his fluency with aerial or steady cam shots that marvel, but his ability to bring an intimacy to the visual look of the film. At the same time, he causes us to bite our nails as he follows the actors up a frigid mountaintop.

Rated PG for thematic elements, The Climb was produced by World Wide Pictures, a subsidiary of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

When the Game Stands Tall (2014)

Jim Caviezel ("The Passion of the Christ") plays legendary football coach Bob Ladouceur. Coach Lad, as he is affectionately known, took California's De La Salle High School Spartans from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for any American sport. The production addresses issues such as why bad things happen to good people, while also featuring an abundance of fabulous footage for fans of football.

Rated PG, When the Game Stands Tall contains an element of faith-based philosophy and is distributed by Affirm Films.

Phil Boatwright is the author of "MOVIES: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Bad," available on Amazon.com.
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